Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 3 – Welcome to Tenerife

After years of thinking about it and postponing it in favour of vacationing on one of the Greek islands, September 2016 was – as we had already been thinking about the possibility of moving to somewhere in Spain – finally time for our first visit to Tenerife. The additional reason we apparently needed to finally check it out was to visit a dear old pal of mine, whom I hadn’t seen for some ten years or so and who had moved there last year. He was overjoyed when he heard we were thinking about doing the same, and urged us to get our asses in gear. He would also introduce us to a fine collection of his buddies, so we could get our bearing more easily.

Unfortunately it eventually turned out that this friend of mine, who intended to start a craft brewery – and offered me, at least in theory, a job there – would soon have to move back to Slovenia for reasons beyond his control that I will not go into here, but otherwise his plan to introduce the island to us (or us to the island) worked out well. We did get to meet a number of great people, some of them Slovenian, some Serbian, some Italian et cetera – but scarcely any Spanish characters. (Here we go again – in Berlin we’d also spent most of our time in the company of former Yugoslav brothers, Italians, Turks and other foreigners, crossing paths with Germans mostly only in various companies, offices, bureaus and administrations). My old pal also showed us around some of the island, told us everything about it, and we took a week-long rent-a-car trip around the rock ourselves.

As far as geography goes, Tenerife (or Canary Islands in general) must be the single greatest location you can find in the European Union. Yes, the French and Portuguese have other remnants of their former colonies and outposts left that may officially be considered EU as well, but generally speaking the Canaries are it, especially if you take their relative accessibility into account: five hours by plane from Germany (or Slovenia) is about as much of flight time that you can stomach in one sitting without going nuts, and the flights are relatively cheap. As far as the European Union goes: do not underestimate the advantages you enjoy as a citizen of the EU. The horror stories I’ve heard from non-EU citizens who moved to Berlin, as well as those told by some of my Slovenian compatriots who have emigrated – or have attempted to emigrate – to destinations outside of the EU, provided ample reasons against trying to live outside of the EU for any considerable length of time. There is more than enough hassle with bureaucracy as it is, even with the European Union’s “freedom of movement of people and capital” and “freedom of labour”. Even in the absence of any problems with visas and work permits, which you encounter should you try your luck outside of the EU bosom, migrants much too often feel as if we were tragicomic characters in a dismal yarn penned by Kafka. The fact that Canary Islands are officially a “remote region” of the EU (which they are, as they’re technically in Africa, of course) will surely provide for enough tax, shipping and other complications as it is – no need to get even more radical than that.

So, Tenerife. Is it beautiful? Worth it or not? What’s not to like: it’s a volcano in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Northern Africa, dominated by Mount Teide, which looms over the entire island from its height of 3,718 metres. No, I’m not particularly worried it might suddenly erupt, but if it ever does blow its lid, we’ll definitely go out in style. Apart from that, well… Once you get past the very idiotic notion that you’re going to stay in some kind of a tropical paradise with emerald lagoons and coconut palms and manage to replace that image with a desert in the vein of Nevada (at least the south of Tenerife, where we are going, is like that), you can finally start to appreciate the place for what it is. However, I will not spend any time writing any odes to Tenerife at this point, because we haven’t really explored much of it yet, at least not in enough detail. Instead I’ll leave the island-born poetry and reggae tunes to any sporadic bouts of inspiration I might yet experience once we finally manage to pull this off, settle there, and start enjoying everything that our volcano lair has to offer.

By driving around the island and talking to as many people as we could, we also decided that the south of Tenerife was the way to go. Most importantly of all, it is the south of the island that boasts the world-famous climate, the so-called “eternal spring”. Of course, this is a bit of a cliché, a moderately white lie that tourist agencies keep spouting… However, even without any embellishment, the night-time temperatures during the winter (in the south of the island!) in fact barely ever fall under 15 degrees Celsius, so winters are practically non-existent and it almost never rains. Showers do happen, but legendary drizzling like Berlin? Forget it. Summers are usually warm, though not steaming, as the temperatures only occasionally go much higher than 30 degrees Celsius, and even then it’s usually dry and windy, so as long as you don’t forget to wear a thick layer of sunscreen in order to avoid skin cancer at the age of 55, you’re good.

The north of Tenerife is nothing like the south, though: the climate there is much more similar to the south of the European mainland, with hot summers and reasonably mild though still relatively cold winters (night-time temperatures of about 5 degrees Celsius, especially at higher elevations) – and lots of rain and fog. Naturally, the north of Tenerife looks better: it’s indeed green and lush, with palm trees everywhere… But I experienced enough Mediterranean winters when I lived on the Slovenian coast to be itching for more.

There’s one thing about the climate in the south of Tenerife that we have yet to experience and which is allegedly far from pleasant: the so-called “Calima”. The Calima is basically a hot sandstorm that comes blowing in from the Sahara, especially during the winter. The insidious dust and sand fills the air, sometimes for a few days. That, however – eternally chewing on grains of sand and trying to wipe a fine coat of dust off of everything even when the calima is nowhere to be seen – is just one of the many things you have to come to terms with. Another annoyance is that tap water is not good enough to drink, except in emergencies, and thus lugging stockpiles of bottled water from the store will definitely become one of our favourite pastimes.

However, another exquisite detail about the south of Tenerife, resulting from its desert climate, is that there are no mosquitoes! It’s too dry and too windy! As far as I’m concerned that’s simply heavenly, because in Izola on the Slovenian coast, where Monika and I had lived before we moved to Berlin, it had been impossible to sit outside due to literal clouds of these bloodsuckers – the tiger variety, no less – trying to exsanguinate you. In fact, there are barely any buzzing insects and no poisonous varmints whatsoever. Forget about ticks, venomous spiders, scorpions, centipedes, fire ants and other monstrosities you might stumble upon elsewhere in this geographic latitude; forget about snakes, poisonous or otherwise. The only pests you have to come to terms with are cockroaches – lots of them – and rats. I know, these are not cuddly and cute, either (yes, I know, rats do have their charm, but not the pestilent ones), but at least they’ll go out of their way to avoid you (as long as you keep your food out of their reach). In any case, rats are everywhere – you’d probably have to move to Antarctica if you have a serious aversion to those.

It is also important for us that the south is mostly populated by foreigners, while most of the Spanish minority (haha) can speak English to at least a certain degree. That especially makes a difference in my case, as I don’t speak a word of Spanish yet, apart from being able to order a coffee or beer – unlike Monika who is fluent.

Furthermore, the south of Tenerife is where tourism has gone completely insane, and this will be useful for us when we’re trying to find work… And finally, all of the people we currently know on Tenerife live in the south.

Thus that part of the equation was settled. We decided we’d rent a flat somewhere in the vicinity of El Médano in the beginning of 2017, live there for half a year or so, and then make the final decision. Little did we know how soon that scheme would change.

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